Sunday, July 25, 2010

Flora and Fauna @ Bah Soon Pah Road

Do you know where Bah Soon Pah Road is ? Named after a Paranakan Chinese Lim Nee Soon (1879 - 1936), Bah Soon Pah road is about 1km long connecting Sembawang road and the Khatib MRT Station in the northern part of Singapore. Taking a slow walk from one end to the other end, you should be able to discover its charm, serenity and its diversity of flora and fauna. There are quite a few nurseries, vegetable farms and one or two vacated farmlands which allow wildlife thriving on them.

This make Striped Albatross (Appias libythea olferna) was flitting around some Coat Button (Tridax procumbens ) flowers. I was lucky that it stayed on the flowers a bit longer for me to take a few shots. However, the female was a bit lethargic and shy- she was still resting. This small and a common but not very conspicuous butterfly is Lesser Grass Blue (Zizina otis lampa), feeding on some attractive Alysicarpus vaginalis (?) flowers - you are sure to find them around in this area if you are look around carefully. This is a male Crocothemis servilia - an all-red dragonfly with a row of black markings on the dorsal abdomen. It is widespread and can be found in gardens, parks and wastelands. This is a mating pair of Ischnura senegalensis - the female has at least two different colour forms. The shot here shows the green form which looks almost the same as the male.
This is another shot when the couple rested on a grass blade.
I have been noticing many insects like to feed on flowers from the Asteraceae family. There were many hover flies feeding on the flowers of Ageratum conyzoides . Not sure if this is another species of hover fly.
A day-flying moth (syntomis sp) was also attracted by these flowers.
Interestingly, this invasive weed contains some chemical compounds which may inhibit the grow of cancerous cells in our body according to some medical researchers (see here) and have insecticide effects on agricultural produce (see here) as well.We could find quite a few other species of wild flowers if we looked around carefully. This small but prominent yellow flower may belong to the genus Ludwigia .
I am not sure if this is a kind of wild basil Ocimum gratissimum - the cluster of flower buds and flowers definitely look unique and beautiful. My last shot of the day was this predominantly white planthopper resting on the tree trunk.
So, no matter how small and insignificant the wild places can be, we can still find some nice flowering weeds and critters if we put on a differernt kind of lens to look around.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Odonata @ Lornie Trail

The order Odonata consists of dragonflies and damselflies is one of the popular insect groups for photography. Having strong chewing mouthparts and four membranous net-veined wings, they are predatory insects

The reservoir edge next to the SICC golf course is one of the best locations in the central catchment area for spotting and watching dragonflies and damselfies. I was very fortunate to meet Tang and Dr Cheong who were conducting a dragonfly walk for the Nature Society of Singapore.

I don't remember if I have seen Lester praemorsus in my previous outings or perhaps I wasn't observant then. Though a few individuals were sighted, I had to wait quite a while for one of them to perch nearer to me for a decent shot -not to get myself wet as well.

This is Chalybeothemis fluviatilis - I guess another first sighting for me. Though it was quite tame with a long perch on the leaf of a aquatic plant, again the distance it was away from me prevented me from taking a close-up shot.

Here is its side view.

A rather common species around that area, Aethriamanta gracilis seems to prefer perching under the sun.
This is a newly emerged (teneral) female Agriocnemis femina which has a different colour from its mature state - one of the reasons why identifying a damsel or dragonfly is not so easy.

This tiny newly emerged damselfly, according to Tang may be a male Agriocnemis nana.
Many thanks to Tang who has helped me to identify some of the species posted here. This is an immature female of Orchithemis pulcherriuma. Can you imagine how a mature female will look like ?
This is a mature female Orchithemis pulcherrima which was shot along the forest trail far away from the waterbody.

We have much to study and learn from this group of insects - their agility and flight patterns in the air, the prowess of their compound eyes in tracking and hunting other insects. Not only they are beautiful, they help us to keep the number of mosquitoes down in parks and forests.

Additional reading and useful related information on dragonfly can be found at Ria's blog here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Two Yellows @ Lornie Trail

On a hot and sultry Saturday morning, the bus going to Lornie Trail (LT) arrived at the same time I reached the bus stop. Without hesitation, I was on my way to Lornie Road.

There is a Leea indica tree at the reservoir edge. Very often I saw butterflies and other critters feeding on its small flowers, quite high up now as the tree grows taller over the years. This dark brown and small Starry Bob (Ibrix stellifer) was seen many times here - it loves these flowers very much. Apart from butterflies bees and wasps were also attracted to these tiny flowers. A few Scoliid wasps were the butterflies' competitors for the nectar.
The absence of cicada songs and movement of wildlife along a long stretch of the forest trail made me wonder if our forest had been sick. I used to see from far, flitting butterflies and other insects feeding on bushes of Mile-a-minute flowers (Mikania micrantha) at one particular corner along this trail. What I could see now was just a lonely orange skipper which looks like a Common Dartlet (Oriens gola pseudolus).
I walked away, spending some time looking for and shooting dragonflies along the reservoir edge. At last a couple of Eurema simulatrix tecmessa came to accompany the skipper. The forewing apical brown patches on the E. simulatrix tecmessa are diffused and not as intense as that on another similar Yellow species, the Chocolate Grass Yellow (Eurema sari sodalis). A very detailed write-up on the Yellows can be found here and here in the ButterflyCircle's blog.
Unlike the Common Grass Yellow Eurema hecabe contubernalis ) which can be found easily in urban parks and wastelands, Anderson's Grass Yellow is a forest denizen but looks very similar to the Common Grass Yellow. One of the differences lie in that Anderson's Grass Yellow has only one cell spot on the underside forewing whereas Common Grass Yellow has two. Like other Yellows, it is usually skittish and alert on its perch. I could only take photos when it was puddling or feeding on flowers in the early morning. A detailed account of its life history can be found here.

My first encounter of this large orange critter with a pair of long antennae caught me by surprise as it landed on the leaf rather abruptly. Is it a beetle or something else ?

I would not have noticed this very tiny frog if I had not gone down on the ground to take some shots of the puddling Yellow. It was my first sighting and shot of this cute and small frog in the forest. After checking the website here and here I still have no clue of what specie it is.

In my next blog post, I will feature the dragonflies and damselflies that I encountered along the trail.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Quiet Evening @ Dairy Farm Nature Park

It was a ordinary very late Friday afternoon (18 June). A pre-school kid should be able to count the number of visitors at Dairy Farm Park. My friend and I had planned to climb up to the Bukit Timah summit again - our last physical training before we headed to Huangshan on 19 June.

While waiting for my friend, I noticed quite a number of common butterflies either resting or fluttering around flowering plants near Car Park B.

This brown skipper with a slightly pointed forewing tip looks like a Small Branded Swift (Pelopidas mathias mathias). A rather common brown skipper, it was zipping around before I got a shot when it was feeding on the yellow Crotararia flowers. Dark Glassy Tiger (Parantica agleoides agleoides) seems to be a permanent resident of this park as I have seen this species a few times here. This male Dark Glassy Tiger fluttered gracefully and unhurriedly amongst the flowers, looking for a comfortable spot to perch and rest, waiting for the dusk.
Peacock Pansy (Junonia almana javana) is usually skittish and alert under hot sun. However, this approachable and pristine specimen might have succumbed to the cool temperature in the evening. It decided to take a nap early. There are a few tall Leea indica trees around the toilet area. This is a Nacaduba species feeding on a small white flower.Perhaps, this is a digger wasp belonging to genus Sphex. It was feeding diligently, displaying all sorts of stunts on the flower stalks.
I was rather pleased to be able to see these critters and photograph them within a short waiting time - around 15 minutes - A wonderful park indeed.

As it was getting dark, I didn't really pay attention to fauna or flora around me while we were on our way up to the summit.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Baby Common Birdwings @ AH Butterfly Trail

I dropped by Alexandra Hospital Butterfly Trail (AHBT) on a fine Saturday morning a few weeks ago to check out the conditions of the trail as it is now under a different management.

There were a few Common Birdwings (Troides helena cerberus) hovering around at tree tops. At last one of them came down to lay eggs - I quickly took an instinctive shot. There were many Common Birdwing larvae feeding on their host plant - Aristolochia acuminata. This late instar larva was munching a young stem. This is not a surprise as the caterpillars of Common Birding are known to be voracious eaters. This is another larva. When it was disturbed displayed its orange osmeterium to scare away any potential predators. Yet another larva was hanging on the stem peacefully, ignoring my presence. This late instar caterpillar of Mottled Emigrant (Catopsilia pyranthe pyranthe) was found on its host plant, Seven Golden Candlesticks (Senna alata).This butterfly is a male Baron (Euthalia aconthea gurda ) which is quite common along the trail. It has the tendency to puddle on the ground and sun-bathe with wings open. Another common urban butterfly, Common Palmfly (Elymnias hypermnestra agina) can be found wherever there are palm trees around. A rather skittish species which is always very shy to show off its uppersides when at rest. A rare shot of this rather large and common Arhopala species, Centaur Oakblue (Arhopala pseudocentaurus nakula), showing us a glimpse of its striking metallic blue uppersides.I am not very sure of what this critter is, a kind of Stink Bug perhaps, resting peacefully on a tree trunk waiting to be "shot". Frankly, I was really puzzled by the appearance of this creature in the field. After I examined the shot carefully, I think this is a species of an ant-mimicking spider biting an unknown black critter. Please correct me if I am wrong. Finally, another rare occasion when a Blue-banded bee (Amegilla species) was found resting on a dry wood. This is my best shot of this bee as it is usually active and acrobatic while feeding on flowers.I am glad to see that AHBT is still very well-maintained and full of butterfly activities despite the change of "ownership". We should maintain this place as it is for city dwellers to appreciate the elegance and beauty of many species of butterflies roaming around in the heart of a busy city area.